Notes on Fuses, 1971

In the midst of developing my kinetic theater works, I began an erotic film, Fuses (1965), because no one else had dealt with the image of lovemakmg as a core of spontaneous gesture and movement. I hesitated to suddenly teach myself a complex and demand medium, but I was compelled to make this film myself, much as I had been compelled as a painter to increasingly incorporate dimensional materials: to structure found film footage and slides, to compose sounds, design electronic systems, and to train performers for my theater and environmental pieces.

Stan Brakhage's birth film of his first child, Window Water Baby Moving, was made with and of his wife, Jane. Still, it was a masculine authentication of the primal act-of-life unique to women, the result of our underlying sexual realities, which remained closeted: a dark genital mystery instead of the luminous center of our life expression.

Fuses was made as an homage to a relationship of ten years—to a man with whom I lived and worked as an equal. We are perceived through the eyes of our cat. By visualizing the cat’s point of view I was able to present our coupled images in the contexts of the rectangles and the seasons surrounding us. I also wanted to transmit fragments of a present to future time—in which the nature of the film would be constantly reappraised.

I did the filming even while I was participant in the action. There were no aspects of lovemaking which I would avoid; as a painter I had never accepted the visual and tactile taboos concerning specific parts of the body. And as a painter I was free to examine the celluloid itself: burning, baking, cutting, and painting it, dipping my footage in acid, and building dense layers of collage and complex A- and B-rolls held together with paper clips. I filmed over a period of three years using borrowed, wind-up Bolexes.

There is precise cutting between close-ups of the female and male genitals. I wanted viewers to confront identifications and attitudes toward their own and the other’s gender. Perhaps because it was made of her own life by a woman, Fuses is both a sensuous and equitable interchange; neither lover is “subject” or “object.”

After one of the first screenings of Fuses, a young woman thanked me for the film. She said she had never looked at her own genitals, never seen another woman's, that Fuses let her feel her own sexual curiosity as something natural, and that she now thought she might begin to experience her own psychical integrity in ways she had longed for. That was in 1967.